Trump lashes out at Mueller. TRANSCRIPT: 12/3/18, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Two very different Presidents. Let`s play
Good evening. I`m Chris Mathews in Washington.
As we begin tonight, the country honors the life and remarkable legacy of
President George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United
States lies in state right now in the capitol rotunda, and will be
memorialized at the national cathedral on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the current occupant of the White House, President Donald Trump,
spent the morning raging on twitter about his former lawyer-fixer Michael
Cohen and launching new attacks on the investigation of special counsel
Trump tweeted, Michael Cohen asks judge for no prison time. You mean he
can do all the terrible unrelated to Trump things having to do with fraud,
big loans, taxes, et cetera, and not serve a long prison term? Well, Trump
went on to add, he lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a
full and complete sentence.
Well, last Thursday Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to the Congress about a
planned project for a Trump tower in Moscow while Trump was a candidate for
President. In a memo filed Friday night, attorneys for Cohen tied Cohen`s
wrongdoing at the feet of President Trump himself, noting that quote “in
the weeks during which his then counsel prepared his written response to
the congressional committees, Michael remained in close and regular contact
with White House-based staff and legal counsel to client one.” Client one
is President Trump.
Anyway, the President`s rage at Cohen kicks off a week that will see at
least two major deadlines in special counsel Robert Mueller`s
investigation. They include court filings related to former national
security advisor Michael Flynn – remember him? His sentencing is
tomorrow. And former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is this Friday`s. We
can also see additional filings to come surrounding Cohen before his
sentencing on December 12th.
And as if in anticipation Trump lashed out at the special counsel today
calling Mueller quote “a much different man than people think, and calling
the team investigating his campaign`s potential ties with Russia an out of
control band of angry Democrats who don`t want the truth. They only want
lies. The truth is very bad for their mission.”
I`m joined now By Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for “The New
York Times.” Joyce Vance is a former federal prosecutor. Emily Jane FOX is
a senior reporter to “Vanity Fair.” And Betsy Woodruff is a politics
reporter for “the Daily Beast”.
I want to start with Peter on this. This week it is coming up, the first
question I have to ask is why has Cohen`s testimony which has only begun,
he has got already 70 hours of testimony, which could range in every piece
of Trump`s life, why is he so upset about it? He seems to be firing in all
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, he
is upset about it. Look, who knows him more than Michael Cohen? He worked
for him for years. He was part of his business dealings. He was part of,
you know, fixing problems like the Stormy Daniels thing. If you are
President, you don`t want somebody like that beholden to a prosecutor.
Now, the President is making the case that Cohen is making things up in
order to lighten his sentence. His tweets today are rather extraordinary,
the idea that you would just publicly call on witnesses to resist
prosecutors in order to protect himself. But, you know, Michael Cohen
represents a threat in a way that Michael Flynn probably does not or other
people who have been caught up in this investigation do not. They don`t
have the history that Michael Cohen does.
MATTHEWS: Well, maybe Flynn doesn`t know as much, but he is on the other
side of the fight now. He`s on the prosecution`s side.
Let me ask you about – have you noticed how Trump is out there attacking
Cohen for full sentencing, life sentences in some cases for people like
Cohen, but basically cuddling. Cuddling is the word for people like roger
stone, he still wants to keep them on his team.
BAKER: Well, he definitely doesn`t want anybody testifying against him, no
question about it. His argument will be that they are being told to say
lies. But you know, you hear that a lot in any kind of criminal case.
Obviously what Robert Mueller is looking for is corroboration that there
are contacts with the Russians that would have given Trump or the Trump
campaign heads up on what the Russians were doing in terms of these
Democratic hacking, and that his business dealings, the idea of building a
tower in Moscow at the same time he is running for President and making
comments about the future of Crimea and other policy decisions that would
be enacted if he were President, those are pretty important things. And
those are pretty important, you know, threats to this President if Robert
Mueller starts linking together some, you know, connecting the dots in a
way that look damning.
MATTHEWS: Joyce, it looks like the rats are leaving the ship. Is it about
to hit the titanic? I mean, I`m dead serious about that metaphor. It
looks like people like Cohen and everybody and Flynn, they are all talking.
The ones that don`t thing can`t get away with talking because they are in
too deep, won`t get anything out because they are too sleazy aren`t talking
yet. But it looks like something is coming.
Yahoo! News is reporting tonight that Mueller`s investigation could be
wrapping up shortly according to a source familiar with communications
between Mueller`s team and defense lawyers. Quote “they have been telling
people they are tying up loose ends now and trying to conclude.”
Your thoughts - is the Dershowitz sound? Dershowitz wrote that in his
column today in the “Wall Street Journal.” This thing is reaching an end,
is that your sense?
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it`s hard to know if they
are wrapping up the entire investigation or just one phase of it. We have
always known that Mueller operates in different phases with different
prosecutors assigned. You know, we saw the Manafort line, the Flynn line,
the Cohen line.
This is a complex case with a lot of foreign dealings overseas, but it
would be just like Mueller to stick to his core jurisdiction to work only
on interference in the investigation. And as he wraps that up, to send
other pieces that are unfinished out to the U.S. attorney`s offices with
jurisdiction. So we will have to wait and see. But it`s possible.
MATTHEWS: You mean to limit his range and prosecution to collusion,
collaboration with the Russians, or limiting it to obstruction or both?
VANCE: I think to both of those. Those are both pretty clearly - they are
explicitly within the mandate that Rod Rosenstein gave him. So he could
certainly do that, and then continue to do other matters as Rosenstein
said, that arise from his investigation, but he may choose to send those to
U.S. attorneys offices like the eastern district of Virginia, the southern
district of New York, that have independent jurisdiction,. And obviously
there are a whole host of reasons that we discussed for doing that. It
protects those investigations from meddling.
MATTHEWS: Well, Betsy, you and I have heard about this Mike Isikoff piece
this moving right now. What weight do you give it, that this thing is
coming to a head?
BETSY WOODRUFF, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: Isikoff is a
MATTHEWS: He sure is. He broke the whole Lewinsky thing.
WOODRUFF: And I can`t confirm his reporting but if your report said, you
are on safe ground taking it, seriously.
The indications, of course, that this is correct are the fact that we have
already talked about which is we have a Cohen sentencing memo potentially
coming out this week, we have got a Manafort sentencing memo. We have got
the Flynn sentencing memo. And the Flynn memo in particular has the
potential, although we don`t know, but has the potential to be really
telling. And part of the reason for that is that Flynn has been working
with Mueller`s team for a year now.
WOODRUFF: That`s a ton of time. Mueller four times has asked a federal
judge to give him more time to work with Flynn. And there have been
basically zero leaks out of Flynn`s cooperation with the Mueller team. We
don`t know what he has been telling him and that suggests that Mueller is
happy with what he is getting.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Emily on this. It seems to be 70 hours of inquiry
or inquisition, if you will, you want to be tough about it by Mueller`s
team of Cohen – Michael Cohen.
Michael Cohen, as Peter said a few minutes ago, was right in there but he
was snuggled in with Trump with everything he was doing. He was his fixer.
He was the guy that dealt with the smelly, dirty stuff. He had to clean up
things. He was the guy going around and cleaning up afterwards, if he
could paying off the people if he could.
It seems like Trump knows all this, like in a bad guy in Colombo. He knows
everything he`s done and he knows he has to pay or it because Cohen knows
everything he has done. Your thoughts about why this is getting under his
skin, the Cohen testimony the last few days.
EMILY JANE FOX, STAFF WRITER, VANITY FAIR: Well, I think there are two
reasons. The first reason is just as you said. That Cohen has worked for
him for a dozen years. He was in there, not only with him cleaning up his
messes, but Cohen was in there with his children cleaning up his children`s
messes. And I think that gets under his skin.
The other thing is the President doesn`t like anyone who he perceives as
disloyal to him. The way that he has perceived what Cohen has done is him
being incredibly disloyal to him. Now, Cohen was acting as most people
would in this situation. He was protecting himself. He was protecting his
family. He is trying to limit his own jail time. As he has explained to
me and as his lawyers have explained, he is trying to do the right thing
now finally once he has seen the light and come clean. But the President
has perceived this as a personal slight, a personal offense, and that`s
part of the reason as well.
Now I will say there is something very interesting in the sentencing memo
that his lawyer put out on Friday. He was saying that Cohen was in close
contact with people around the President last year when he was preparing to
lie for Congress.
Now, he didn`t go as far – the attorney did not go as far as to say that
he was directed to lie to Congress, but I know from interviewing Cohen that
exactly around the time he wrote the statement to congressional
investigators, that Cohen carried two phones with him. One in a black case
and one in a white case. And the phone in a black case he explained to me
in the interview was a phone he carried just to receive calls from people
in the White House. So, this was someone who was definitely in close
contact, at least as he explained it to me, with the White House during
that period of time.
MATTHEWS: It is like Velocci (ph) papers.
Anyway, as Trump was calling for Cohen to rot in jail, he had nothing but
praise for Roger Stone as I said. Another potential target in Mueller`s
crosshairs for having said this yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: There`s no circumstance under
which I would testify against the President because I would have to bear
false witness against him. I would have to make things up. And I`m not
going to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Trump tweeted this morning, I will never testify against
Trump. This statement was recently made by Roger Stone essentially stating
he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up
lies and stories about President Trump. Nice to know that some people
still have guts.
Joyce, you have been through this. Why would a guy who might potentially
go to prison or President who might get kicked out of office, impeached or
whatever, why would he trash one witness? Is he talking to the jury or he
just trying to make the guy feel bad? What`s the advantage of trashing
someone who has turned states evidence against you?
VANCE: You know, it`s an interesting situation. First, I think it`s
important to say that every prosecutor who reads this whole little back and
forth sort of yawns because there is absolutely no witness who becomes a
cooperator for the government and sings like a bird down the road who
hasn`t at some point said they would never cooperate against the king pin
or whoever it is that they are being asked to testify against. That just
seems really ordinary.
What`s unusual here is the President`s twitter involvement and the
underlying question is whether you can obstruct justice, whether you can
intimidate witnesses via twitter. It looks like he is flirting with that
on a daily basis sometimes.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Peter about the week ahead. The whole segment
at the beginning of the show is looking ahead. It`s Monday. Of course we
are going to get back to the funeral of George Herbert Walker Bush, but we
want to get the week started.
It looks to me like there is a lineup of a lot of events coming up this
week in filings, about certainly tomorrow with Flynn, and later on in the
week Manafort, and then coming up very soon apparently, something again on
Cohen. Is there accumulation here that even Trump can`t withstand, where
it`s just going to splat against the wall, all these charges?
BAKER: Yes, it`s so interesting. I mean, is it really only Monday? It
feels later in the week already. But you`re right. One of these - you
know, each of these memos one after the other could be very revealing. It
could help us see more clearly where Robert Mueller is taking his
investigation. And you can see the buildup, the accumulation that has been
waiting to come out, you know, while Mueller passed during the campaign
rallies. You know, he was trying to stay low from labor day to Election
Day, not seem to be politicking or influencing the politicking. And now
that that election is passed, now that thanksgiving is passed as you see
sort of the beginning of a series of revelations and disclosures and
actions that will begin to pile up. And it does weigh on a President to
have these things come, especially day after day after day.
MATTHEWS: And here come the Democrats, the upcoming chairman of the house
Judiciary Committee, New York Democrat Jerry Nadler spelled out how
devastating Cohen`s bombshell plea could be for President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: The fact that he was lying to the
American people about doing business in Russia and that the Kremlin knew he
was lying gave the Kremlin a holdover him. And one question we have now is
does the Kremlin still have a holdover him because of other lies that they
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Betsy, starting January 3rd, the President faces a second enemy.
It`s like Germany and World War II. They are going to have the west as
well as the east coming at them, the Democrats and the Congress. If they
have any confidence and I think they have some, they will be subpoenaing
everything, from his tax returns to the latest filings that they can`t get
automatically from Mueller. They are going to go after him for everything.
WOODRUFF: That`s right. And those two things to keep an eye on. First
the White House is in a mad dash to lawyer up for the White House counsel`s
office has just atrophied over the last few years. And they are scrambling
to beef up the legal team they have there because they know they have to
brace for impact once the Democratic chairs including Nadler get the
And the second thing to keep an eye on, of course, is Democrats. You know,
comparably scrambling to get on these committees from chatting the folks
close to the committee over the course of the day, I learned Democrats are
lining up to get on House judiciary because they are expecting it to be the
place where the action is, in part, of course, because Nadler will be in a
position to preside over any potential impeachment proceedings.
MATTHEWS: It is a whole new world out there starting January 3rd.
Thank you, Peter Baker of the Times, Joyce Vance, Emily Jane Fox of “Vanity
Fair,” and Betsy Woodruff.
Coming up, say good-bye to George Herbert Walker Bush. We are going to
take a long look at his legacy as the 41st President of the United States.
And why many see it as the end of an era for the Republican Party? I guess
why. We all know why. He was a decent guy.
Now with just weeks to go until the new Congress is sworn in, Republican
Party is losing some of its most outspoken Trump critics like senator Bob
Corker is going. Jeff flake is gone practically. But they are not going
quietly. “The Washington Post” dubbed this lame duck period the last stand
of Congress`s never Trump brigade. Unfortunately, it is the last stand.
This is HARDBALL where the action is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Today this hero has returned to
the capital a final time.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Throughout his life of service,
President Bush personified grace. His character, his character was second
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His example will always
inspire, and his lifetime of service will be enshrined in the hearts of the
American people forever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The country continues to mourn today as we remember a fallen leader. Of
course, President George Herbert Walker Bush now lying in state right now
in the U.S. capitol a few blocks from here. Within this hour, the public
will be welcome to join in that and get in line. I think I`ll be there
The 41st President made one last trip back to Washington on air force one
today renamed special air mission 41 in his honor. Bush`s service to the
country he loved spent a lifetime, of course – look at this list. A Navy
pilot during World War II. Shot down a couple times by the Japanese, U.S.
congressman from Texas, envoy to China, CIA director, vice-President, of
In his one term as president, he had a lasting impact both domestically and
abroad, of course, passing landmark legislation, including the Americans
With Disabilities Act, the Clean Air Act, and, God, even the breakup of the
Soviet Union. That was pretty big.
But he also served as a restrained commander in chief in the Gulf War, more
than can be said for another member of his family.
At the end of the week, he will return to Texas, where he will be buried
alongside Barbara Bush and his daughter Robin, who passed away at the age
of just 3 due to leukemia. That was a tragic point in their family`s
For more on the life of George H.W., I`m joined right now by Susan Page,
Washington bureau chief of “USA Today,” Jon Meacham, of course one of the
great presidential historians of our time and author of “Destiny and Power:
The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” a great book, and
Eugene Robinson, columnist for “The Washington Post.”
You are all so wise.
I have to start with you, Jon, because I loved your book, especially I
didn`t – I wasn`t as thrilled by his progeny as I was by him. But there
are people in that new class of Bushes which are very impressive, not the
ones you would think of. People like Marvin, I think, are great people.
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL BIOGRAPHER: Yes, it`s a significant family.
Some have chosen politics. Some have chosen – they all serve in some
capacity. And I think they do it because the reverence they have for their
dad is an ambient reality. I like to say that, if my kids end up having 10
percent of the affection for me that the Bush children have for George H.W.
Bush and Barbara Bush, I will be way ahead of the game.
MATTHEWS: What`s the difference between a Joseph Kennedy and how he
influenced his kids and a George Herbert Walker Bush? This is a big
divide. So, explain it.
MEACHAM: Such a great question.
I think – this is something you think about a lot, too, and have written
about. I think to some extent it`s the immigrant story vs. the patrician
story. The Bushes were not New Englanders. They were from – the Walkers
were from Saint Louis, the Bushes from Columbus, Ohio.
But S.P. Bush, who was Senator Prescott Bush`s father, was the – sort of
the guy at Buckeye Steel for the Harriman fortune. They came east pretty
quickly. Prescott Bush, like his son, was kind of entrepreneurial, ended
up being more of a big investment banker.
But I think the Kennedys had an ambition that burned even more brightly.
The Bushes, I think, felt more comfortable that they had been born to some
extent to lead. I think the Kennedys were trying to break into a world
dominated by people like the Bushes.
Gene, your thoughts?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: He was the last of a kind, I
think, in a way, at least in terms of our presidents.
He did have that noblesse oblige. He came from that class, from that
family. And he had the – he was the last, I think, of the period when
bipartisanship was a real thing. It was different from pre-Bush and post-
Bush, I think.
They were very different things. He was – it was the time when people
really did have friendships and relationships and common interests across
the aisle, and when party didn`t mean what it means now. And I think he
was, in a sense, a transitional figure for the Republican Party.
I mean, he came in, and he was what we would call a moderate Republican, or
not at all a Republican right now actually, given today`s Republican Party.
MEACHAM: But his three best friends, right, because Chris was working with
them, were Democrats in the House, Lud Ashley of Ohio, Sonny Montgomery of
Mississippi, and Rosty.
MATTHEWS: Yes, who were all Democrats.
MATTHEWS: All in different circumstances. Even when Rosty went to prison
for the stuff he did – and he did do it – Bush stuck with him as a
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, “USA TODAY”: Yes, because that`s who
he was, right? He especially stuck with him when he was in trouble. That`s
when you especially need your…
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about personal relationships, not just that some of
the schmaltzy stuff, which is all true.
I noticed that he was always really good at nurturing relationships for a
good reason. Like, he was working Mubarak years before Mubarak became
president of Egypt, sitting at baseball games, autographing baseball boys
with him up at Orioles Park.
And then when these people – it was not a dance learned for the occasion,
that he knew, as part of his life and growing up, was getting to know
certain people that he would be able to influence at some point when it
PAGE: You know, that`s – that is so true. And it`s so true during his
presidency and his vice presidency, and actually when he was at the U.N. as
well, where he took a long view in building relationships with other
foreign leaders or people who were going to be foreign leaders in other
He told his staff he didn`t want the first call that he made to a foreign
leader to be a situation where he had to ask for a favor or where there was
MATTHEWS: Teach that to every young person in America right now. Don`t
make the first call when you want something.
PAGE: Make a call and say, how are things going with you? How are things
going to have a relationship that provides a context, so that when you have
the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, you can call these leaders and forge a
MEACHAM: The other deft sort of hardball thing he did was, when he was in
China, he made sure he went, he and Barbara both went to every national day
event, because, as he put it, we`re the big guys, but everybody wants their
moment in the sun.
And so he made friends around the world just by showing up at the
Australian Day or the Sri Lanka Day, whatever the hell it was.
ROBINSON: It make a difference?
MEACHAM: And he just – he was a master what Franklin Roosevelt called the
science of human relationships.
ROBINSON: Another interesting thing is the relationships he maintained
with reporters and columnists who wrote upon him, some who wrote about him
in very – very tough ways.
MATTHEWS: Like Maureen Dowd.
ROBINSON: Like Maureen Dowd.
PAGE: Or Ann Devroy.
ROBINSON: Ann Devroy.
PAGE: Yes, an even better example, yes.
MATTHEWS: Of your paper.
ROBINSON: Our late colleague at the “Washington Post,” who when she –
when she got cancer, and it was terminal, but he wrote amazing letters to
PAGE: Once, I interviewed him while he was president.
And I was working for “Newsday” and not that bright. And I didn`t do a
very good interview. At the end of the interview he said: “I don`t feel
like you have given you anything. What can I say to help your story?”
PAGE: Not really the traditional role presidents take.
MEACHAM: And other thing he did is his humor. His humor was great in is.
The day after he dropped out of the `80 race, he – they`re living on Briar
(ph) Lane, wasn`t it, in Houston. And he lets Doug Jeal (ph) from “The
Times” come in. And he`s – there`s a copy of the Yale alumni magazine and
“National Review” sitting out.
And he picks up “National Review” and says, “I guess we don`t have to put
this out anymore.”
MEACHAM: So, he knew – he was in on the joke, you know?
MATTHEWS: Well, during his one term as president, President Bush oversaw
some of the defining moments, of course, of U.S. foreign policy in the 20th
century, including the fall of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War, which he
His response was often refined – defined as restraint. What a word we
don`t hear now.
Here`s how former President Obama described that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What people don`t
appreciate fully, even within his own party, is the degree to which he had
to land the plane when the Berlin Wall comes down.
You have chaos, potentially, in the former Soviet Union and Russia and
uncertainty in Europe. All those things could have gone haywire at any
point. And the restraint and the caution and the lack of spiking the
football that they showed was, I think, an enormous achievement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Isn`t that something? You`re looking at those Eastern European
dictators, and they`re taking the statue down. With Bush, they put the
statue up. So interesting.
PAGE: I`m sorry. Yes. You want more?
PAGE: Somebody – a president has to offer to try to make the interview
It`s quite true. The restraint that he showed, he showed also when he left
office, right? He didn`t like everything Bill Clinton did as president.
He didn`t like everything Barack Obama did as president. And he kept his
mouth shut, because he thought that was not the appropriate role for him to
MATTHEWS: That was true of his son too.
ROBINSON: Right. I was going to say, I`m not sure he liked everything his
MATTHEWS: He didn`t like – he and Brent Scowcroft were not big
cheerleaders for that second Iraq War, because the second Iraq War was not
a good one. The first one was OK.
Thank you, Susan Page, Jon Meacham, who likes everything the Bushes do,
mostly, don`t you?
Thank you, Gene.
Are you going to do W. now?
MEACHAM: Thinking about it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you.
Up next: It`s been a month since the midterms, but some races are still in
doubt. Do you believe it? In the Tar Heel State, in North Carolina, a
race that looked like a Republican victory is now in limbo after officials
uncovered election anomalies, isn`t that a nice word, that could mean voter
This is old-time scary. We`re going to get to this one right now. We had
a pretty clean election in this country. We usually do. But let`s check
out North Carolina 9th.
This is HARDBALL, where the action is.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Something strange is happening in North Carolina. Last week, the state
Board of Elections and Ethics Reform voted unanimously to hold off on
certifying the results of the congressional race in the 9th District, amid
reports that absentee ballots may have been tampered with.
Republican Mark Harris beat Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. Dan
McCready conceded. But a Democratic Party attorney provided six sworn
affidavits as evidence of irregularity in the district, singling out one
rural county, Bladen County.
One witness described an unidentified woman there coming to her house and
taking her unfinished absentee ballot to be processed. Another affidavit
alleged that an individual paid by the Harris campaign as a contractor to
work on absentee ballots would be paid a bonus if Harris beat McCready.
Finally, a political scientists in the state noted that an unusually high
number of mail-in absentee ballots requested in Bladen, that county, and
neighboring Robeson County were not returned. In other words, they weren`t
filed as ballots.
According to “The Charlotte Observer”: “More than 40 percent of the ballots
requested by African-Americans and more than 60 percent of those requested
by American Indians, Native Americans, did not make it to the election
For white voters, that figure was about 17 percent. Big differential.
For more, I`m joined by Allison Riggs, senior staff attorney at Southern
coalition for Social Justice.
Thank you so much, Allison.
This is a troubling chase. Explain it now to somebody who`s never heard
anything about it, if you could.
ALLISON RIGGS, SOUTHERN COALITION FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE: Sure.
Well, what we`re seeing are allegations and significant evidence of voter
theft, not vote fraud, vote theft, particularly directed at voters of
And there`s two pieces of this that I think are really significant. One is
the rate at which Harris won the absentee vote in Bladen County doesn`t
match up with historical trends.
Harris won 61 percent of the absentee vote in 2018. In 2014, the
Democratic congressional candidate won 67 percent, and the Democratic
Senate candidate won 74 percent. So the numbers of accepted absentee
ballots are strange.
And then we have 1,200 votes in Bladen County, 1,200 absentee requests,
never returned , predominantly people of color. And you see similar
patterns in neighboring Robeson County.
And all of this is happening in the context where the legislature is
currently contemplating and is about to enact a voter I.D. law that will
disproportionately harm black and American Indian voters in this state.
It`s very troubling.
MATTHEWS: Well, tonight, WSOC, a local affiliate in Charlotte, is reported
they found what appears to be a targeted effort to illegally pick up
absentee ballots, in which even the person picking them up had no idea
whether those ballots were even delivered to the elections board.
The affiliate spoke to one of those individuals who said she was paid $75
to $100 a week to promote the Republican candidate and pick up finished
ballots. She said McCrae Dowless, the man named in the affidavit, told her
to collect ballots and hand them off to him. She did not know if the votes
Let me ask you what – can you go backwards on this and say, what did these
people do exactly to corrupt the system? What actions did they take?
RIGGS: Well, we don`t know all of the details.
What we know – so we don`t know how all of these absentee requests got
sent in. There was an abnormally high rate of absentee requests by mail.
What we do know from the affidavit submitted by the Democratic Party is
that voters in predominantly African-American, predominantly elderly
communities were the ones targeted by these collectors.
And we`re told, you don`t need to fill out this ballot. I will take it in
for you. I will finish filling it out for you.
And so I think that in part explains why the vote totals, the absentee vote
totals, don`t really accord with past political trends in Bladen County,
which is majority Democratic and nearly 40 percent African-American.
MATTHEWS: So the premise here is that Republican operatives, to help the
Republican candidate, went out and send a lot of requests in for absentee
ballots from African-Americans. They knew their addresses. They know
And then they went around, knowing when those – when those absentee
ballots were going to show up, and collected them, and filled them in for
either their candidate or destroyed them?
RIGGS: Yes, I mean, there are both numbers…
MATTHEWS: Is that what you think happened?
RIGGS: I think there are a lot of missing absentee ballots from black and
American Indian voters, and I don`t have an answer for where those are.
But it`s deeply troubling. If you look at the number of absentee ballots
returned in Bladen and Robeson County in 2014, so the last midterm,
compared to 2018, particularly in Bladen, you have a dramatic reduction in
the number of returned absentee ballots, and you have a dramatic reduction
in the number of returned absentee ballots from black voters.
So where did they go?
MATTHEWS: Well, I know you`re going to stay on this.
Allison Riggs, please get back on the show as soon as you find out
something new. This is very disturbing. We should have clean elections in
Up next: After losing what looks like it will be 40 House seats in the
midterms, you would think a little soul-searching would be in order for the
Republicans, it would be on their agenda.
But aside from outgoing critics asserting themselves in their final weeks
in Congress, the anti-Trump people, we`re not seeing a lot of concern on
the right about the recent rout. Has the Republican Party learned any
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We`re looking at live pictures now at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda two blocks
from here, actually, which is now open for the public. If you want to go
to pay your respects – I think I`ll do it tomorrow morning – walk past
As the country reflects, of course, on the legacy of the 41st president,
his passing, it also signals the end of an era I think for the Republican
Party. His wing of the party, if you will, seems to be shrinking, even
more so since November`s midterm elections. As “The Washington Post”
points out today, this is the last stand of Congress`s never Trump brigade
as the Republican Party prepares to usher in a class of lawmakers poised to
show stronger support for the White House. Isn`t that wonderful news?
But as “The New York Times`” Jonathan Martin notes, Trump`s take over of
the Republican party and wins in the Senate has allowed for, well, little
self-examination by Republicans about a midterm that seemed at least
competitive turned into the loss of almost 40 Republican House seats.
Let`s bring in tonight`s HARDBALL round table. Kimberly Atkins is the
Washington bureau chief for “The Boston Herald”, Ryan Costello is
Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who is retiring at the end of this
year, and Howard Fineman is a political analyst for MSNBC. What a great
Let me ask you about the inflection point in Republican party. I grew up
with a party like yours. My family was from that party. Not me
necessarily, at all, I should say. But people like Bill Scranton and Tom
Ridge, and a Republican Party that made a lot of sense – Howard is shaking
his head. Made a lot of sense, middle of the road party, pretty much.
Is that gone now?
REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think we`re in challenging
times if you`re the Republican Party. I think it has dwindled in 2018. I
think in `16, a lot of Republican voters took a chance on Trump because he
was running against Hillary Clinton. But if I were to look back, it`s much
more the party of Pat Buchanan combined with the 2008 recession which I
think had a lot of populist voters in the country take a chance on Trump.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that the old
Republican Party that we knew and grew up with in Pennsylvania, me in
Pittsburgh, you in Philly, is gone. It`s completely, completely gone.
And, and what`s replaced it is clinging to the United States Senate where
Republicans have the majority and where Mitch McConnell, who grew up in
that tradition, has now become essentially the guy who handles things for
Donald Trump on the Hill and insists on a hard gripe few that Trump
And McConnell is up in `20. Republicans have the Senate. They view that`s
the place they get the federal judges if they want. They`ve retreated, as
it were, into the citadel of the Senate. That`s how they`re going to run
things, with McConnell in charge.
MATTHEWS: Kimberly, did the Republicans have any choice. He seems to be
the ones who stick around like Lindsey Graham, Marcia Blackburn coming in,
they know they have to be Trumpites. That`s the only future for them.
KIMBERLY ATKINS, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, BOSTON HERALD: Well, look, I
think we`re dealing with the time that it`s not just what`s happening with
the Republican Party. It`s what`s happening with the country we`re seeing
increased polarization. I think the midterm election was a real
demonstration of that.
Now, whether Trump is the symptom or the cause, probably a little bit of
both. But I think that makes it harder for moderates of both parties,
people willing to stand up and say – Republicans willing to stand up to
Donald Trump when they disagree with him. Most of those people got voted
out or retiring. And so, now, you`re left with a much more concentrated
right and a much more concentrated left.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about the dynamic between the two of them. Do you think
that by the fact that Trump is so wickedly awful to a lot of Democrats,
they`re polarized because of Trump, have they whip sawed over to the hard
left because they`re so mad at his, whatever it is, I don`t know if it`s
ATKINS: I think it`s both. There was an increasingly left ward move of
the Democrats that got accelerated in an age of Trump. And now, Democrats
are looking for somebody who is really as opposite as you can get. I mean,
I think that`s one reason that people like Beto O`Rourke is so instantly
popular is that people are looking for somebody who can speak that left-
MATTHEWS: You know, it`s a bad example. In war, you end up imitating your
Anyway, meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin and Michigan, two
states that will matter next election, are using their lame duck decision
to take power away from the incoming Democratic governors. In Wisconsin,
Republicans held a hearing today for legislation that, among other things,
prevent the new governor from withdrawing from a lawsuit challenging
Obamacare and make it harder for him to implement state laws.
Governor Scott Walker downplayed the significance of this plan while
talking to reporters tonight, according to “The Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel”. He said, quote, I actually think if you look at much of what
they`re talking about is codifying practice for all the talk – this talk
about reining in power. It really does.
Anyway, in Michigan Republicans have legislation that would allow the
legislature, Republican legislature, instead of the attorney general to
intervene in court cases and take campaign finance oversight away from the
secretary of state.
Howard, this is sort of revanchism as they say. You don`t want the new guy
to come in and have any power.
FINEMAN: Well, as I said, they`re building a citadel for themselves that
looks inward not outward, and they`re laying traps and mines outside the
walls of the citadel everywhere they can. This is not an expansive party.
This is not a theory of expanding your tent or expanding your appeal. It`s
focusing in on what you can protect.
MATTHEWS: The logger.
FINEMAN: Yes. What you can protect, the logger, the treasury, the innards
of the castle. That`s what they`re doing.
MATTHEWS: How do you see it, Ryan?
COSTELLO: Well, I think in every state, this is not just a Republican
thing. It happens to be in Wisconsin and Michigan right now. But we`ve
seen this in years past. Constitutionally, I question whether this stuff
can be done.
MATTHEWS: Passing statutes as you lose –
COSTELLO: In order to reduce the power of a state office just because an
incoming member happens to be of another political party. I think there is
some constitutional questions here that some of this stuff will never –
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a broader question. Howard, you`ll get into it.
When your party recognizes you`re facing a demographic time bomb, this
assumes a couple things, like African-Americans are going to stay 90
percent Democratic, since the `60s. But they weren`t always that way. It
used to be about two to one, more of a Party of Lincoln.
And Hispanics are in play because you got people, Mexican-Americans, and
Cuban-Americans very much in play, especially Mexican-Americans. They`re
not all lefties. Puerto Ricans may be. But these are just patterns. I
think the Republican Party is girding itself for being a minority party,
whether it`s voter suppression, whatever games rather than trying to get in
the game and trying to be a majority party.
ATKINS: Yes, I mean, I think a lot of times short term gain is focused in
this modern era of politics in way that makes it really hard to see how the
Republican Party sustains in long term. And you`re absolutely right. I
mean, voters, including Hispanic voters, Latino voters were not monolithic.
There was a time that Cuban reporters were almost reliably Republican.
MATTHEWS: And California and Texas were heavily Republican.
ATKINS: Yes, and states like Texas – I mean, in states like Florida
which make a huge, huge difference, but after Reince Priebus, remember that
seemed so long ago in 2013, said they have to look out and learn how to
look outward and make that pitch to a broader group of people. Republicans
have turned and gone the exact opposite way doubling down on a small
portion of the base and really catering their policies to that.
COSTELLO: I think a lot of Republicans see that and want to pivot. And I
think that they want to broaden. I think it becomes very difficult when
the president just dominates the discussion and, frankly, you had a lot of
voters go to the polls, Republicans. If they didn`t like the president,
they were not voting for their member of Congress. You had members of
Congress, state senators, state representatives with favorability ratings
at 55, 60 percent get 45 percent of the vote because you had Republican
voters going in saying, I`m a Republican, but I can`t do it this time.
FINEMAN: There is a rural imbalance, a growing rural tilt in the Senate
for constitutional reasons because of two senators for each state. You`ve
got a lot of Republican senators up in red districts in 2020. You`ve got
Mitch McConnell up in Kentucky where Trump won by more than 20 points.
Unless Mitch McConnell – and I don`t mean to make him a bigger player than
he is, but he`s a big player. Unless and until he and the senators respect
his political acumen, unless and until Mitch McConnell says enough, we`ve
got to change our tactics and change our vision, nothing is going to
happen. But what Mitch has said is we`re going to keep putting judges on
the federal bench with our majority of 53 Republican senators, and we`re
going to build a legal citadel to go along with the political one to allow
us to play out this string that we have committed ourselves.
MATTHEWS: Sounds like John Marshall. The early federalists did that,
FINEMAN: Yes, well, not just anymore, I don`t think.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, the round table – well said. There`s no more,
therefore don`t do what they did.
The round table is sticking with us. Up next, these people tell me
something I don`t know. They keep doing that.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL round table tonight.
Congressman Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania for a while still is going to
give us something we don`t know.
COSTELLO: I talked to my colleague Tom Emmer today, the incoming NRCC
chair, very aware of the challenges facing House Republicans in 2020. We
need a suburban agenda that isn`t defined just by Donald Trump, much more
broader than that. And number two, Act Blue totally destroyed us in the
So, coming out with an online portal to have Republicans match what
Democrats did this time-out is issue number one and focus number one.
MATTHEWS: How do you get small donors to vote Republican?
COSTELLO: It`s the challenge. Well, the problem for Republicans is you
have a lot of outside conservative groups pulling in dollars all over the
place. Democrats are much better in consolidating that through one portal.
MATTHEWS: Is being pro-life hurt your party?
COSTELLO: I don`t think that that`s the issue anymore. Culturally, I
think it`s much more on the gun issue and the unwillingness of Republicans
to say, background checks for all commercial sales is something that`s
reasonable and suburban –
MATTHEWS: Toomey is for that. Toomey cut it, right?
COSTELLO: And I think that`s why he won.
MATTHEWS: That`s right. We agree.
Thank you, Kimberly Atkins. Thanks, U.S. Congressman Ryan Costello of
Pennsylvania and Howard Fineman.
When we return, let me finish tonight with a personal remembrance of
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a personal remembrance of President
In the spring of 1989, newly inaugurated President Bush invited my wife
Kathleen and I to the White House for dinner in the family quarters,
upstairs, and a movie afterwards. There`s just one obstacle, my parents
were scheduled to visit with us that night to visit us. Fortunately,
President Bush welcomed all four of us to dinner and as I said at a movie.
The magic began when we arrived to the White House, greeted at the top of
the stairs by the president and the first lady. The president grabbed my
two parents and disappeared. Barbara gathered us and some other guests
took us on a tour of the family living area.
Well, after the tour from the first lady, I was standing on the Truman
balcony overlooking at the South Lawn when I looked to the French doors of
the White House to see three people chatting away like old pals, dad, mom,
and the president of the United States. I remember over dinner later that
night when my dad signaled to me in language that required no words, that
this was the greatest night of his life.
There was an interesting postscript. During that evening, President Bush
commented about our family being Democrats. I said that the family was
overwhelmingly and historically Republican. I was the black sheep in the
Well, several months later I was sitting in the Roosevelt Room in the West
Wing for a press briefing for my newspaper, the “San Francisco Examiner”
and some other Hearst papers. And after the briefing was finished, I
noticed President Bush actually heading down this long table toward me.
And when I arrived in front of me, he paused, quote: So, has your father
changed your mind about things yet?
What a nice gentleman. I had a hard time being tough on him after that,
especially when dad asked me to be nice for what he`d done for our family.
Well, that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
“ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES” starts right now.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the